Black Marble: Google Maps Now Lets You Explore The Earth At Night

Earlier this year, NASA updated its iconic “Blue Marble” image of the Earth, and last week, it released the first version of the “Black Marble,” its image of the planet at night. We’ll still have to wait and see if the “Black Marble” will be just as iconic as NASA’s earlier efforts, but it sure looks stunning and, thanks to a collaboration between Google, NASA, and NOAA, you can now explore it just like any other map built on top of Google Maps.

The image was taken from the same angle as the Blue Marble photo and the imagery was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and another 13 days in October 2012. “It took 312 orbits,” the team writes, “to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands.” The images were taken with the help of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. The satellite features a new sensor, the “day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite,” that is sensitive enough to capture this kind of nighttime imagery.

For the time being, this is not an official Google Maps feature and it’s not clear if it ever will be, but if you want to explore the imagery, just head over here and take a look.